Public Opinion and Sentencing

One of the Council's primary functions is to gauge public opinion about sentencing matters.

The Council’s early work in this area resulted in three publications:

In 2008, the Council joined a national survey of public attitudes to sentencing, funded by the Australian Research Council. The research was designed as the first-ever Australia-wide survey of public perceptions about crime, the courts and sentencing. The study included three surveys and one series of focus groups, designed to measure people’s changing attitudes over time. 

The Council contributed additional funding to the national survey, allowing a larger number of Victorians to participate in each of the three surveys.

The surveys were completed in mid 2010. The Council produced a series of short reports on the findings of the Victorian research, each examining a different aspect of the survey data.

In 2012, the Council published key findings from its series of community panels conducted throughout Victoria. The panels sought to gauge community attitudes to offence seriousness. The findings also informed the Council’s advice on its reference on Baseline Sentencing. The Council’s Community Attitudes to Offence Seriousness Report outlines the 244 participants’ judgments of offence seriousness and how participants weighed the factors that render different offences more or less serious.

Since early 2013, the Council has been assisting with a study of Victorian jurors, run by Professor Kate Warner at the University of Tasmania. The study aims to examine jurors' opinions on sentencing in Victoria – both on sentences in general and on the sentences that were actually imposed in the cases that they heard. The study will continue through mid 2015.